Saturday, 3 November 2018

Scared to Let Go

In September, I wrote a blog post called Moving on a Bit. Although, I hadn't announced it yet (I had to wait until I was given the go-ahead) I had already signed my two-book deal with the brilliant Bookouture and had started writing the second novel in my contract.

My post was about how difficult it was to write short stories alongside longer-length projects and how, even though I'd managed to do this when writing my first two novels, I had decided to take a step back from magazine writing for a while to give myself the very best chance of success.

I think it was the only decision I could have made as, very quickly after this, I began work on editing novel one. First there were the structural edits, then the line edits, then the book was sent to an independent editor for copy edits, which I shall get back in December. At the same time as this, I've been working on novel two. 

Last week I had an email from my lovely editor at The People's friend. They were buying two of my stories. This should, of course, have been cause for celebration, but instead I felt nothing but anxiety. The reason for this was that, when I came to enter the sales into my records, I realised that they only had one more of my stories left to read. In the six years I've been writing for the magazine, this has never happened, as I always like to have at least ten with them. I then looked back and saw I hadn't written them a new story in two months (I used to write one a week).

It was a truly unsettling moment and I vowed that I would leave my novel and write a story there and then. I looked at my list of ideas and chose one before doing what I always do and just to start writing. This technique has never failed me yet as, along the way, the small kernel of the idea usually starts to grow quite quickly into something story-like and, if I get stuck, a dog walk usually sorts it out.

Not this time.

To my horror, by seven hundred words, my idea was still just that... an idea. The characters hadn't come to life, the plot hadn't taken shape and the end wouldn't reveal itself. Eventually, I had to stop.

I've tried to analyse what happened. It might be a) I've got out of the habit of writing short fiction b) I was writing it because I felt guilty not because I wanted to c) My head was still in my novel 

Whatever the reason, it's worried me. I've always been successful writing for the magazines and I don't want to forget how to do it. It's where my income comes from and I've always enjoyed it. I'm also afraid that, with the magazine market shrinking, the competition for story sales is greater than it's ever been and taking a step back can be a dangerous thing to do. 

Getting my publishing deal has been one of my greatest achievements but there's no way of knowing what will happen once the books come out. All I know is that I have to give it my very best shot. In the meantime, I'm going to leave the story and come back to it with fresh eyes. I've done it three hundred times before, so I shall just have to have faith in myself that I can do it again.

Anyone else out there in the same boat?

Monday, 22 October 2018

Sighing and Other Irritations

I was reading back over the last couple of chapters of my work in progress last week (before I carry on with my writing, I always read and edit my words from the previous day) and something soon became clear to me.

A lot of my characters stand in doorways. 

In fact, it's amazing how many doorways there are in my novel... and how many times people stand in them. 

Sometimes they lean
Sometimes they loiter
Sometimes they eavesdrop
Sometimes they hover

... but mostly they just stand.

It reminded me of the time (a long time ago now) when my husband told me that a lot of the characters in my magazine stories 'furrowed their brows' and occasionally even 'knitted' them. Yes really! 

You'll be glad to know they never do that now.

It made me wonder about other writers. Do their characters also have a fear of crossing the threshold or are there other irritating things they do much too often? With this in mind, I took to Facebook and asked the question. Here is a list of the answers I got back - they may or may not surprise you.

  • sigh
  • blush
  • rise to their feet
  • take a deep breath
  • shrug
  • smile
  • giggle
  • roll eyes
  • lock gaze
  • nod
  • shake head
  • raise eyebrows
  • check watch
  • turn on their heel
  • frown
  • linger on thresholds
  • stir tea
  • pull up a chair
  • put kettle on

My favourite answer by far was the writer whose characters often winced and gripped each other's elbows (that sounds very painful!)

When the novel is finished, I shall definitely be on the look out for all these sneaky little actions - just in case they've crept in when I wasn't paying attention.

So pull up a chair, take a deep breath, stir your tea and smile while you think of some other actions we could add to the list. If you do, I'll be the one shrugging and rolling my eyes in the doorway!

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Impostor Syndrome - Yes, I have it!

A person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others

I belong to a choir and, last week, a new member asked me what I do for a living.

I hesitated before answering, knowing I had two options. The easy one was to say, 'I'm a teacher.' The hard one would be, 'I'm an author'.

If I answered the first way, I guessed the conversation would move on quickly. If I answered the second, all manner of things could happen.

What to do?

I had no choice really. I hadn't taught in a classroom for seven years... but I had been writing for six.

Biting the bullet, I answered, 'I'm an author.' This was  followed by a brief explanation of what that meant - I wrote fiction for magazines and that I had written two novels that would be coming out next year.

Then came the wait. I was in the grips of  'Impostor Syndrome'. How could I dare call myself an author. What cheek! What pretense! How conceited! 

These are the types of replies I imagined she might give:

  • Will I have read anything you've written?
  • You write for magazines? I didn't know they did fiction.
  • What a lovely hobby.
  • I've got a little book in my head too. I'll write it some day.
  • Will your book be in the local book shop?
  • Is it another Fifty Shades?
  • You must be rich then.
  • You're going to published by who? Not Penguin? I've only heard of Penguin

Ridiculous I know, but it's a feeling I'm sure most authors have had at some time or other.

But, to my surprise, it didn't happen that way at all. What she actually said was, 'That's wonderful and so exciting for you. I'm going to buy the magazine next week to read your story and you must let me know when your book comes out. I couldn't write a novel to save my life!'

I could have kissed her.

Why had I even considered denying what I did?  It was all in my head - just my own self-doubt talking. I've had hundreds of stories published in magazines and I have a publishing contract for two novels. I should be proud, not embarrassed by what I've achieved.

And I am proud. 

So I'm pushing that little voice that says 'impostor' away (hopefully for good) and, next time, I will answer with no hesitation. 

I am an author. Oh, yes I am!

Have any of you suffered from Impostor Syndrome? If so, how do you rid yourself of it?

P.S When I first wrote this post, I spelt the word  'impostor' as 'imposter'. It belongs to the group of words such as 'actor' and 'impersonator'. I've learnt something today!

Monday, 1 October 2018

I Joined The People's Friend Team for an Hour!

An exciting thing happened last week. I was asked by The lovely people at The People's Friend magazine if I'd like to co-host their first ever live 'Author Q&A' as part of their Writing Hour on Twitter. 

Even though I've written over two hundred stories for this magazine, I was surprised to have been asked and very flattered. Of course I said a very quick yes. 

So what is this Writing Hour? Well, it's on a Tuesday and a Thursday morning at 11am and it's a place where readers and writers can chat about a variety of things to do with writing. Using the hashtag #PFWritingHour, the Friend team pose a series of questions which will elicit conversation amongst the hashtag readers. 

This time though, the questions would come from the readers and they would all be directed at me! (gulp).

Now, I'm not new to answering questions (I've been interviewed on people's blogs many times) but I've never done it live! It made me feel a little bit panicky. What if I was asked a difficult question and didn't know the answer? What if I sat there for an hour with no questions? What if I let myself and the lovely magazine I write for down? I certainly hoped I wouldn't.

Tuesday morning came and the first thing I did was advertise the event. I certainly didn't want to be 'Billy No Mates'. At eleven O'clock, armed with a large cup of coffee, I logged into the People's Friend Twitter account and introduced myself to the readers. I needn't have worried about no one asking me anything as immediately the questions came pouring in. I was very proud when the People's Friend profile picture came up every time I commented - I felt just like one of the team!  

The questions were from both new and established writers and all of them were great. Here are a few of them to give you a flavour:

What's the best way to deal with rejection?
Have you ever written a story that has upset someone?
How long does it take you to write a short story?
Do you have a favourite PF character of all time?

I could barely keep up with the questions and I'm ashamed to say I had to type the answers so quickly, there were one or two little typos - oops!

The whole experience was really enjoyable and, if you are on Twitter and would like to read my answers to these questions and many more, you can still catch them by typing #PFWritingHour into the search bar and scrolling down to last week's chat.

Much to my surprise, I've been asked if I'll take part in a Q&A again another week... I'd be delighted. In the meantime, here is a picture of my latest story in this week's People's Friend. It's called, 'Let Love Grow'.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Greece is the Word. Have you Heard?

Sorry I haven't posted for a while but I've been on holiday and, on my return, had to get stuck into a pile of line edits that my editor sent me just before I went away (I deliberately didn't look at them until I came home in case I went into panic mode). Now the edits are done, I can concentrate on carrying on with novel two. It's taking a while to get into the swing of it but it's slowly taking shape and, today, I reached the halfway mark which I'm happy about.

As always, our Greek holiday was fantastic. This year we tried a new island, Meganissi (sometimes spelt Meganisi) and it was exactly as we'd imagined it - small but perfectly formed. In fact, with its little harbour, hilltop villages, green slopes and pebble beaches (not to mention the flotillas that moored up each evening) it reminded us of our two previous Greek holidays in Ithaca and Paxos. Above, is a picture of the little house we stayed in. We had our own pool with a gorgeous view which we sadly shared with several wasps (Ian got stung between his toes on the last day) and some rather scary looking hornets (which luckily weren't interested in us at all).

So what does this writer do when she's on holiday? Write?


I read lots, ate delicious food, drank Mythos beer and swam - not necessarily in that order! One day, we hired a little boat. Mooring up in deserted bays and swimming in the crystal clear water was heavenly - until we ran aground and damaged our propeller. As if that wasn't bad enough, we then found, once we'd left the shelter of the harbour and were setting off home, that the wind had picked up and there were waves. I absolutely do not 'do' waves.

The only way I could cope with the journey back was by taking the wheel. It was better than being a passenger and awaiting my fate in the choppy water. "We'll be alright, won't we?" I was heard to say more than once to my husband. Needless to say (as you're reading this) we got back unscathed.

The harbour town of Vathi was the perfect place to have lunch and watch the sailing boats come and go. Each day, we'd choose something different to accompany our Greek salad. These are the delicious courgettes in tempura batter we had for one of our lunches. This year, we also discovered Portokalopita for the first time. It's a type of Greek orange drizzle cake and was absolutely delicious.

To counteract all this lovely food we were eating, we made sure we went to a beach for a swim at some point every day. The beaches in Meganissi are all pebble (ranging from shingle to large white stones) but that is how we like it as it makes the sea even clearer and turns it the most beautiful shade of blue/green. Usually, we'd stroll down at around six in the evening, when the weather was cooler, and have the beach to ourselves but, on a couple of days, we treated ourselves to a whole day at one of the two 'organised' beaches. This meant a sunbed and shade and a beach taverna.

The photo above was Fanari beach with its great taverna playing reggae music (sounds strange but it works). As you can see from the photograph at the top of this post, it looks very Caribbean! The other organised beach we went to was at Spilia. A storm was brewing, which made for a great photo, and we huddled under the sunshades as lightning forked the sky and the heavens opened. It lasted about half an hour and was quite exciting!

So now I'm home again and have been chuffed to find that I've had five stories published over the last two weeks in three different magazines. It doesn't always happen like this I can tell you. I've made a little montage of them because it makes me happy... but maybe not as happy as going to Greece!

Friday, 31 August 2018

Welcome Back Samantha Tonge!

The last month or so has been a whirlwind of returning guests, and don't I just love it - especially when they are ones I've known all my writing life. Today I'm delighted to welcome back my very special guest, Samantha Tonge, for her fourth appearance on Wendy's Writing Now. Samantha has been on quite a journey recently and has openly talked about her struggle when wine O'clock become something bigger. Since then, she's made huge changes in her life and one of these is a new direction in her writing.

I'll let Sam tell you about it.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about a writer’s voice and exactly what it is. The first book I wrote -  not my debut Doubting Abbey, published in 2013, but my very first attempt at writing back in 2005 – was not comedic. My second and all the ones to follow were. In real life I’m the sort of person to crack one-liners and laugh with people I know (and don’t, to my children’s embarrassment) and I think I decided that romantic comedy was more me because of this. Plus at the time I got feedback from an editorial agency saying that they felt I was very near the point of finding my writing voice and I took that to mean I was doing the right thing, writing as I spoke.

It certainly felt natural and I went on, eventually, to have nine romantic comedies published, the last this May, One Summer in Rome.

I say the last because in recent years I’ve faced some mental health challenges and there came a point, in 2017, when I had to tell my agent I couldn’t write comedy anymore. It just wasn’t in me to crack one-liners. Less of that was happening in real life and I suppose it’s obvious that would affect my work as a writer. In 2016 I’d found myself with a wine o’clock problem that had got out of control and it was whilst recovering from that I changed direction and wrote my first women’s fiction novel Forgive Me Not. It has just been published by the wonderful Canelo.

On the back of that I thought that very first book I wrote must have been the real authorly me and I’d just gone back to that.

But then the reviews started to come in for Forgive Me Not. Here are some examples...

You will still find the same warmth and love just like in her other stories.”

“This book has a harder edge to it but the characters and plot were equally as compelling.”

“Samantha’s writing style has the knack of drawing me in making it her books extremely difficult to put it down.”

Heartwarming & heartbreaking in equal measure – love @SamTongeWriter's new direction.”

Whilst reviewers acknowledge that Forgive Me Not heralds a very new direction for my writing, they can clearly see common ground. And the same words keep coming up as in reviews for my romcoms – warm, emotional, heartfelt… so all of this leads me to question exactly what voice is.

And I’ve concluded that, for me, it’s not the tone – i.e. whether the book is comedic or serious – no, it’s about warmth. All of my novels have featured characters and communities pulling together, for example, and Forgive Me Not is no different – the economy of the little village of Healdbury is under threat from a new out-of-town hypermarket and so locals pull together to save their businesses. There’s also a warm-hearted thread about charity and acceptance connected to the grittier subject of homelessness.

I suspect whatever genre I wrote that voice of mine would be there. If I wrote about zombies alongside the gruesome deaths I’d probably have one who was vegetarian, like the shark in Nemo, who was trying to save the humans.

So I think readers help you identify exactly what your voice is – what it is, about your writing, that inspires them to buy your next book. It may not be the tone or the style or feel. Or it might be. But, whatever it is, it’s unique to you.

You can buy Forgive Me Not HERE

You can find out more about Samantha by following the links below:

Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK. She studied German and French at university and has travelled widely.

When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines. 

Her bestselling 2013 debut novel, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category. Her new novel, Forgive Me Not, heralds a new direction with publisher Canelo, and is a story about acceptance, forgiveness and trying to put things right.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

I did it! I'm going to be a published author!

I apologise if this post sounds over-excited, and may contain a surfeit of capitals and exclamations, but it's a blog post I've been longing to write for a very long time... and, at last I can. 

Drum roll.... I have a publisher!

Most of you will have already heard by now that, on Tuesday, the publisher, Bookouture, made this announcement:

SO DELIGHTED to share that we have signed a deal for two psychological thrillers from Flash500 Novel Competition winner WENDY CLARKE.

If that doesn't deserve a squeal or two, nothing does! I am absolutely thrilled.

You can read the full announcement from Bookouture HERE

My journey with Bookouture began at the end of May when, despite winning the Flash500 novel competition, having a glowing report from my NWS reader, Jennifer Young, six full  manuscript requests from agents and unsolicited approaches from two major publishers, months and months had gone by and things were still not happening. I was growing weary of all the waiting - wondering if six months was too early to politely enquire after my novel only to do so and have it rejected by return of email or, worse still, to have no reply at all. I was constantly scared of doing the wrong thing: not wanting to upset anyone and spoil my chances but not wanting my submission to have fallen down the back of the metaphorical filing cabinet. 

Anyone who's been down this route will know what I'm talking about.

Little by little, my confidence was ebbing away, leaving me wondering whether maybe my novel was rubbish despite the evidence to the contrary.

Then I had a light bulb moment. Why was I not listening to what many of my writer friends had been telling me for a while? Rather than waiting for an agent to find a deal for me, why wasn't I looking for one myself?  

Bookouture was top of my list having been recommended to me by my lovely friend Liz Eeles who writes for them. Also, Bookouture publishes Kerry Fisher and Louise Jensen whose books I love. In fact, I'd heard only amazing things about this publisher and when I submitted my manuscript I was expecting another nail-biting wait as I knew competition would be high.

Imagine my delight and amazement when, the very next day, I received an email from my fabulous editor, Jennifer Hunt, to say that she'd just started reading my novel. She wanted to let me know that she was already enthralled by it and swept away by my characters' stories. She'd be in touch very soon.

Very soon was indeed VERY soon! Just four days later, I received another email from Jennifer telling me she thought I'd written such a page-turner she'd read it twice. Could we speak on the phone? I was shocked  and very nervous but, when that call happened, I knew straight away that I'd found the perfect home for my novel. In Jennifer, I'd found that person (aside from my NWS reader) who felt as passionately about my work as I did. Not only that - someone who was as excited at the prospect of working with me as I was with them.

It didn't take me long to say a big YES to their offer of a two-book deal. In Jennifer's words - it looked like we were a 'great match'

So this is the news I've had to hold close to my chest for three months while the wheels have been set in motion. During that time, I've been working with my editor on the structural edits of book one (which are now done) and have started book two.

On Tuesday, the announcement was finally made and everything went crazy! Here is a screenshot from Twitter to give you an idea.

I spent most of the afternoon glued to my computer screen, chatting to people on Facebook, re-tweeting messages of support and thanking people for their incredibly heartfelt congratulations. It was, in a word (or two), overwhelming and very emotional.

So, thank you all for travelling this journey with me and for your support and encouragement (especially you, Tracy Fells).

Now the hard work begins!